BY NANCY CHAVEZ-REYES
I’m Latina. I’m 17 and I’m pregnant.
Some people may read that line, let it hang in the air, then stop and move on. Not because it holds offensive meaning for them, but because they will assume based on those two sentences that they already know my whole story. They will assume I’m just another teen mother who will drop out of high school, sink into the ground, and become nothing more than a stereotype. However, I have never let stereotypes control my destiny or dictate who or what I would become. I have spent my life disproving false assumptions, and I only plan to continue to do so.
The day that being pregnant really sank in, so much echoed through me. I realized that everything from that moment on wouldn’t be about me, but about the new life I was now carrying. The part that really tore through me though was the label- another one- which would now be imprinted upon me along with the rest. No longer would just be labeled illegal, alien, immigrant, poor. I spent my life fighting the negative connotation these labels carried by proving them wrong. I spent my life determined to reveal that while these labels come from parts of my identity, they do not and will not define me. In reality, being the daughter of immigrants made me hard working, coming from a poor neighborhood has made me driven and humble. As a daughter of poor Mexican immigrants, I was driven to succeed to repay my parents for their countless sacrifices.
And for the last twelve years, I have persevered with grit and courage.
My road to success hasn’t been smoothly paved. Half way through my freshman year, there was a proposal to shut down my school. As a sophomore, the gentrification sweeping through Denver pushed me and my family out of the neighborhood where we had lived in my entire life. As a junior, our house was robbed.
As a senior, when I saw the two small red double lines form on the pregnancy test, I realized I was no longer just a Mexican-American girl struggling to find her path to success. Now, I was pregnant too which I knew meant I would be seen as a “lost cause.” I would be expected to fail and to give up on my own dreams. It was in this moment, James Baldwin words from The Fire Next Time, came pulsing through my mind: “ [You] were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that [you] were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence: [you] were expected to make peace with mediocrity.”
This is exactly how I felt: Worthless. Hopeless. Not because I was carrying another human being in me, but because if I could not protect myself from the clear brutality of this world, how was I going to protect my son? This fear consumed me. All day, I wondered how I could protect him from being seen as a worthless? How could I protect him from the physical and psychological dangers that face both myself and my unborn son?
I refused to be stalled by fear. I will not give up, now more than ever I will give the brutal world all the fight I have in me to ensure my son is born into a better world than I was.
Now, as I continue to commit myself to fight against social injustice it is not only to build a better future for myself and my little sister, but also for my unborn son.
I refuse to be a stereotype. I am not a “lost cause” and whether I carry with me ten labels or ten hundred, I will continue to go beyond the stories they try to tell about me. I refuse to make peace with mediocrity. I refuse to accept the brutality. Instead, I choose to walk in my power, to define myself, and to spend every moment for the rest of my life building a world that will see my son as valuable and powerful. This is how they were wrong: they thought getting pregnant would mean I would give up on my dream of fighting for change, instead it only fueled my commitment to keep fighting. His existence has made me fearless and has given me the courage to overcome obstacles in my path.
I face new obstacles now than before. In the United States, only 38 percent pregnant girls finish high school. Pregnancy has remained the number one reason girls drop out for decades.
However, I’m proving them wrong. Not only have I continued learn, grow, and succeed, I have dedicated every spare moment to leaving a legacy at my school to empower those who follow me. This year, while maintaining a 3.4 GPA and taking college courses, I have worked with a small group of my peers to found the first student built and led writing center in the country. I come to school early and leave late so I can tutor my peers and coach them to become stronger and more confident writers. I have co-taught freshman and sophomore classes, hosted custom workshops, and shared creative writing at school wide events. This Friday, I have been asked to speak at a state-wide teacher orientation event downtown. Last month, I was invited to speak at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
And when I walk across the stage on May 27th to receive my high school diploma, I will be the same Latina who with grit and courage has fought for what is right for her entire eighteen years of life.
Myself at 4 months sharing a piece of creative writing for at a Writing Center event.
Yes, I’m Latina. I’m 17 and I’m pregnant.
However, that line does not define me. Within two months of giving birth to my son, I will step on the University of Colorado at Denver’s campus and become the first person in my family to attend a four year university. Just like I beat the odds of graduating high school, I know I will be in the 2 percent of teen mothers who finish college before the age of 30.
I will not make peace with mediocrity. Nor will I let my son be born into the world that believes he is worthless. Society may have judged me and assumed they knew my story, but I will keep fighting to build a society that won’t do the same to my son.
No, my son has not robbed me of my liberty.
No, I will not dropout.
No, my son is not a mistake.
No. I will not stop fighting for true justice.
Yes, I will be the first in my family to graduate from college.
Yes, with my son at my side, I will continue to step into my greatness because I know his future depends on it.